For instance, in the past year, Ethiopian Airlines ferried 416,229 passengers between Nigeria and Addis Ababa to emerge the foreign carrier with the highest number of traffic in 2017 in the country. Ethiopian Airlines operates from five points in Nigeria; Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Kano and Kaduna. No Nigerian carrier operates to the East African country.
Also, British Airways emerged the second biggest carrier out of the country with 275,233 passengers, Air France ferried 254,290 air travellers, Lufthansa had 245,151 passengers and Emirates airlifted 242,033 passengers within the period.
Closely following Emirates in terms of passenger traffic in 2017 according to the report was another Middle East carrier, Turkish Airlines, which airlifted 219,551 passengers in and out of Nigeria in 2017.
Also, Virgin Atlantic Airways airlifted 185,994 passengers, KLM Airlines; 185,999, Qatar Airways; 170,159, Egypt Air; 151,018, South African Airways; 140,273, Asky Airways; 119,154, African World Airlines; 112,542, Rwandair; 108,256 and Kenya Airways airlifted 93,307 passengers within the period.
Besides, Virgin Atlantic Airways from United Kingdom also ferried 185,994 passengers, KLM Airlines; 185,999, Qatar Airways; 170,159, Egypt Air; 151,018, South African Airways; 140,273, Asky Airways; 119,154, African World Airlines; 112,542 Rwandair; 108,256 and Kenya Airways airlifted 93,307 passengers within the period.
The only American carrier operating direct flights between Nigeria and United States, Delta Air Lines had 93,244 passengers within the period while Royal Air Maroc, airlifted 88,015.
Another Middle East, which made a strong statement on the Nigerian route in the past year, was Etihad Airways, which carried 84,984 passengers within the period. The first Nigerian carrier with high passenger traffic on the international route was Med-View, which emerged the 19th airline on the log with passenger traffic. Med-View transported a meagre 72,175 passengers.
Besides, the benefits of having a national carrier cannot be underestimated. The benefits achieved by Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa through their respective airlines are enormous. In the East African region, only Uganda lacks a national carrier; even young Rwanda has a high flying Air Rwanda.
The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) in its statistics pointed out that the most visited countries in 2015 by international tourist arrivals in order are: France, United States, Spain, China, Italy, Turkey, Germany, UK, Russia and Thailand. International tourism receipts grew to $1.26 trillion in 2015, corresponding to an increase in real terms of 3.6 per cent from 2014.
The organisation reports the following African countries; South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Mauritius, Tunisia, Uganda, Sudan, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ghana as the top 10 tourism earners for the year 2015.
It’s evident that the billions of dollars raked in by tourism are also shared by the national carriers of the respective countries. Of the top largest airlines by passengers carried, four of them are based in United States; three of them are based in China.
It’s evident that a functional national carrier spurs growth in tourism, which is a multiplier effect in the profitability of the airline business.
Professionals in the Nigerian aviation industry said an airline business needs top management and that aviation is a highly volatile business and needs great care and handling.
Capt. Dele Ore, who is regularly referred to as the doyen of the Nigerian aviation industry in his analysis with our correspondent, gave 10 hard facts about the liquidation of the former national carrier.
Ore who flew several world, African and Nigerian Presidents was Commander in the Presidential fleet and retired as a Director of Operations of the former national carrier.
According to Ore, the government was ill-advised in the liquidation of Nigeria Airways, saying that the liquidation option was the last recommendation of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on the carrier.
He also identified bad faith and jealousy on the part of some people in government to the liquidation of the airline, adding that the proceeds from sale of assets of the airline could not be accounted for by the government or remained unpaid by the beneficiaries.
Ore who is the immediate past President of Aviation Round Table (ART), further alleged that the assets of the airline were fraudulently converted by some people in government, adding that some of the assets ever paid for were intentionally undervalued.
He added: “Nigeria Airways is the worst example of liquidation of an on-going concern whose assets suppressed indebtedness. Liquidation was to cover some influential people’s indebtedness by claiming that the airline had huge debt profile.
“Findings from Justice Nwazota’s probe panel on Nigeria Airways revealed some untouchable ‘role models,’ which we find to be very instructive. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.
“Many of our colleagues and friends have been sent to their early graves due to the senseless, Ill-advised and malicious liquidation of Nigeria Airways.”
Reasons Nigeria requires a national carrier
Mr. Bankole Bernard, President of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agency (NANTA), in an interview with our correspondent insisted that Nigeria requires a new national carrier.
Bernard noted that there are several avoidable challenges in the nation’s aviation industry, but emphasised that re-emergence of a national carrier for the country would re-direct the attention of the government to the activities in the sector.
For instance, Bernard observed that the problem of aviation fuel, which had been with the industry for over a year as well as the inability of foreign airlines to repatriate their funds, would be effectively tackled by the government once a new national carrier emerges.
He added: “This in itself has led a number of airlines to withdraw their services entirely or reduce the frequency of their operations. Hundreds of jobs have been lost and livelihoods hampered due to this level of seeming governmental lethargy. I am persuaded that the emergence of a national carrier will inspire government to pay more attention to all the issues that currently limit the aviation industry in Nigeria.
“Another important reason for a national carrier is the prospect that it would facilitate the promotion of tourism in the country. This is more so at this time when government shows interest in the diversification of the economy.
Besides, one of the major stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry, Grp. Capt. John Obakpolor in a recent interview, said that for the new proposed national carrier to operate profitably and breakeven, the government should not have a controlling share in the airline.
On the modalities for the proposed carrier, Obakpolor suggested that Nigerians should participate in its formation through shares while other institutional investors should be known.
He insisted that there was no major aviation country that didn’t have a national airline and said Nigeria should not be an exception.
Obakpolor opined that the government should have 49 per cent of the equities while the remaining 51 per cent should go to the public.
“Let people buy shares into the project and let’s see if it will not move forward. In U.S., some of the airlines, their shares were sold to the workers. So, when you buy shares, you cannot work lackadaisically. You know if you do that, there will be no profit for you to share at the end of the year. The airline will work, but the modality is important,” he said.
Engr. Sheri Kyari, the Chief Executive Officer, Finum Aviation Services said Nigeria required a national carrier that all stakeholders and professionals must put in their efforts to ensure its success.